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Girl, 13, abducted by masked man found dead in creek weeks later

A body found in North Carolina has been preliminarily identified as a 13-year-old girl kidnapped outside her home, bringing a sad conclusion to a three-week search involving hundreds of investigators.

Lumberton Police Chief Michael McNeill told reporters on Wednesday that state crime lab tests indicate the body found late on Tuesday is Hania Aguilar.

Police say the Year 8 student had taken her aunt’s keys to start the vehicle to prepare to leave for the bus stop when she was kidnapped.

A witness saw a man dressed in black and masked with a yellow bandanna grab Hania, force her into an SUV and drive off.

While a final determination will be made with dental records, investigators believe the body is hers.

“This is the outcome that we all feared,” Mr McNeill said.

“We did not want to hear this. We wanted to bring Hania back home and bring her back home alive to our community. It hurts.”

He pledged to bring whoever is responsible to justice. Investigators said they don’t currently have a suspect or person of interest.

The chief said Hania’s body was found in a body of water about 16 kilometres south of the mobile home park where she was kidnapped on November 5 after going outside to start a relative’s SUV before school.

Authorities wouldn’t elaborate on whether the body had been concealed, but said it was not visible from the road or obvious to people passing by.

Investigators spent Wednesday combing the area in daylight after finding the body the previous night.

The cause of death hasn’t been released, pending an autopsy. Investigators would not describe the condition of the body.

An FBI official said he did not have any information as to whether Hania was killed where she was found or elsewhere.

The green Ford Expedition was found several kilometres south of her mobile home park. The body was found another few kilometres away.

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